Co-existing: Animal Place director lives in peaceful setting on farm |

Co-existing: Animal Place director lives in peaceful setting on farm

Situated a quick walk from the barns, the doublewide manufactured home enjoys views of the pond and surrounding hills Special fencing around the home helps keep pets safe from snakes.
John Hart/ | The Union

Passion, compassion — and a holiday legend all the way from Norway. That’s a lot for a 1,400-square-foot home to accommodate, yet that’s exactly what Kim Sturla’s manufactured home embraces.

Kim is the executive director of Grass Valley’s popular Animal Place — a haven and lifetime home for approximately 300 rescued farmed animals.

“With our assortment of chickens, turkeys, cattle, rabbits, goats, sheep and pigs, you can imagine how much compassion and just plain hard work it takes to care for them properly. For my staff and me, however, it’s our passion every day of the year,” Kim said.

Besides the animals’ care, the 600-acre property must be well maintained. When Kim moved the sanctuary (and herself) here three-and-a-half years ago from Solano County, she wanted a home that was “pleasant to live in, easy to maintain and eco-friendly.”

After considering several possibilities and comparing their costs, she opted for a doublewide, two-bedroom, two-bathroom manufactured home.

‘Pleasant, easy to maintain and eco-friendly’

Since “pleasant” was a priority, Kim asked her Folsom-based sister, designer Susan McCracken, for color advice.

The result is a tasteful palate of harvest shades. Moss green, apricot and honey hues add warmth and soften the abundance of natural light. There’s plenty of room for her rattan furniture and a compact piano.

The front porch has a relaxing, scenic view of the nearby pond. Since her two dogs, rescued from Mexico, needed a large, fenced-in yard, Kim found snake-proof fencing that features quarter-inch mesh material that’s installed both above and below the ground.

“For me, it’s worth every penny in terms of peace of mind,” she said.

Other attractive aspects are the reclaimed elm floors throughout and the custom alder cabinets in the kitchen. The floors come from California Hardwood in Grass Valley and were milled on site. A soapstone kitchen island and counter tops add additional style and informal seating.

The one-level, open floor plan, wood floors, ample storage and laundry/mudroom make cleaning straightforward and efficient.

“Remember, I’m an outdoor kind of gal so the less time I spend on housework, the more time I can spend in the barns tending to our lovable residents,” Kim said.

Lastly, Kim wanted her home to be near the sanctuary, as well as eco-friendly. With triple insulation, double-pane windows, energy efficient appliances, shades, solar tubes and a wood-burning stove, the home stays comfortable quite effortlessly. Trees felled on the property are the primary fuel source.

The result is a home that mirrors its owner’s priorities — and gives her the freedom to pursue her heartfelt commitments to her beloved animals. Although its location is peaceful and private, Kim has many neighbors nearby.

“Many are longtime friends who share the same dedication,” she said.

“Some are involved with education; some with daily care; and some are involved with fundraising and administration – as well as welcoming our many visitors. It’s such a collaborative effort that we’ve formed our own little community – with two-way radios on all the time.”

Living the legend?

Perhaps some readers will recall the ancient Norwegian tale about “the night the animals can talk.”

Legend has it that since the very first Christmas took place in a stable, each Christmas Eve, exactly at midnight, animals are given the gift of speech.

As a child, I would listen spellbound each year when my Swedish neighbors would tell this tale to my friends and me.

It remains a cherished, vivid memory.

Although ancient in origin, today the legend continues to fascinate children throughout Scandinavia.

Wide-eyed and expectant, they are drawn to barns, hoping that maybe, just maybe, they will get to hear what the animals have to say.

Has it ever actually happened? Well, that remains a mystery. Perhaps the myth is more enchanting than the reality.

However, if it were to happen closer to home, right here in Nevada County, I’d bet that it would happen near Kim Sturla’s pretty, practical home — in the sturdy barns that house the many grateful animals at Animal Place.

Personally, I would love to hear what Lucille the pig, Summer the steer, Celeste the hen, Aiden the sheep, Willy the goat and Wyatt the turkey have to say (besides “Thank You”).

Hmmmmm, perhaps they know a few Christmas carols, as well!

Courtney Ferguson has written home-and-lifestyle articles for many years, both in Nevada County and in England. Contact her at

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